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Home | Articles | Sampler by Liberated African Charlotte Turner

Bathurst, Sierra Leone, 1831
Silk on wool in original mahogany frame
123/4 x 10 inches
Courtesy of M. Finkel & Daughter

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American and English missionary movements intensified their activities in colonial outposts such as India and Africa. The tradition of sampler making was brought to these countries as a means to teach the English language and instill religious beliefs. One such missionary posting was in the west African country of Sierra Leone where a massive resettling of Free Blacks and Liberated Africans took place.

This sampler, worked by a ten-year-old named Charlotte Turner, is the only known example produced within this population, and documents, for the first time, sampler making by formerly enslaved young African girls.

The settlement of Bathurst included a school administered by the Church Missionary Society. Its 1830 register stated, “Girls…are instructed in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, the Elements of English Grammar and Geography, plain sewing, knitting, marking and etc.…We are convinced that the instruction and right education of the Children of the African Race will do more to advance the cause of Universal Emancipation, than all other means put together.” This sampler is thus not only an important visual document but represents the spread of one culture’s education and values to another.

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